Farmer Focus: Stale seed-beds work a treat on blackgrass

Harvest took 61 days to complete and I was beginning to think it would never end – I’ve literally just parked the combine up to write this.

Thanks to Dean for piloting the combine for most of harvest. Like me, I’m sure he’s glad to be getting on with other things.

Break crop yields have matched the farm’s five-year averages, with wheat just beating the average.  All is now safely dried and in the shed.

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Land work is mostly up to date and stale seed-beds are working a treat. There is plenty of blackgrass germinating and hopefully once all the wind and rain passes we can start drilling wheat on clean fields.

I’m particularly pleased with the job our Farmet Phantom cultivator has done – shallow cultivations are giving us better weed germination.

Our oilseed rape established behind both cultivator and drill is coming under huge pressure from cabbage stem flea beetle. I know we haven’t historically had it as bad as Cambridgeshire, but this is by far the worst year for us to date.

Interestingly, the pressure in the autocast-established crop is a lot less. Whether this is a coincidence I’m not sure, butit has been the case two years running.

This year we have moved wholly to Clearfield oilseed rape varieties. I’m convinced we were picking up some sulfonylurea residues from previous crops on our high-retention clays – time will tell.

Off to university

I’m very proud to say my daughter Harriet passed her A-levels with flying colours and has accepted an offer to read agriculture with animal science at Newcastle University, one of our country’s finest learning institutions.

To say I’m a little jealous is an understatement. About a week ago a small pile of household goods started to emerge in the living room. Now there is so much, I have to hire a van to move her up to Newcastle.

The funny thing is, she has never used a washing-up bowl or tea towel before. Good luck to all those heading off to college or university, they will undoubtedly be some of the best years of your life.


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.